Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Child Left Inside

A break in temperatures has increased our outside time this past week. (yay!)
We have a flurry of camping trips to round out the year, one last weekend to celebrate my birthday and my Dad's birthday. Much fun was had by all. Bubbles and camping! That's his cousin Izzy helping out in the bubble department.Another camping trip planned for this long weekend to see Dave's family. Then for 4 days next week to hang out in our old stomping grounds with friends for a big hippy wedding.
Needless to say, I'm desperately trying to get the last of the tomatoes safely canned, and do something productive with the apples that are pouring in. As I know anything we leave behind on Friday is just going to rot over the week we'll be out and about camping.
Rowen loves helping with the tomatoes, he is quite serious about tomato transportation from garden to kitchen door and only drops a few. :-D This was our BIG tomato for the year, turned on it's side so you can't see where it split when it got dropped a little bit. :-D
Then, of course, if Mommy is stirring stuff in a big pot, he *has* to have a big pot to stir himself. Right in the middle of the kitchen. Complete with Quart jar and lid rings. He knows what to do! lol

The end of summer rush is definitely on though, with cooler nights hinting at the frost that's sure to come. Tomatoes and basil and peppers begging to be put up safely.
Cucumbers and squashes getting in one last push of goodness.
Apples everywhere.
Seed that is quite dry now, but still uncleaned. (Let's be honest, it's not getting done until winter.) :-D

Inadvertent Farmer asks how we've promoted children in the garden. Besides encouraging the local kids to help themselves to the cherry tomatoes, (planted right up against the sidewalk where they zoom past on their bikes.) I helped over the summer with a school garden, for some 3rd graders. I didn't do much, but it was nice to know I helped even a little. The No Child Left Inside campaign is really encouraging. Of course, out here in rural Iowa, it's not too hard to find a nice bit of dirt to plant some lettuce and beans for a group of school kids. And that's not a bad thing.

Not too shabby

In spite of the challenges, I've been pretty happy with garden harvests this year. Here's a recap of some of the bounty.
Kale, scrawny softneck garlic that was planted in the wrong season, but was still garlicky and tasty, and the first of the green beans and tomatoes and potatoes.

The first of the potato harvest, all Yukon Gold tastiness. Canned green beans and tomatoes with homemade prunes on the far right.

Tomatoes really produced this August, I had yellow beauties from the Moonglow vines, small red from the Stupice, dark red/purple from the Cherokee Purples and large meaty Amish Pastes. My bell peppers did ok, and I got multiple waves from my purple green beans.

More tomato glut, with the first parsnip, dug up to check development. The rest I'll leave in the ground for awhile to size up some more. Basil did great, I dried 3 rounds for tastiness this winter. Carrots in the background, not actually from my garden, they are local grown from the farmers market. :-D
Peaches!! Colorado peaches, made into tasty quarts of peach halves and divine jelly jars full of Vanilla Peach Jam. I finally got a jam to set up!!!! *doin my jam dance* I used a different pot, that has firmly established itself as my new jam making pot, it's got a thicker bottom than the others and is really wide, which helps evaporate more of the water out of the jam. (at least that's my theory) I used real vanilla, right out of the pod and WOW is this jam tasty. I tried to can 7 Quarts of the peach halves, and sadly, one of the jars broke during canning, (my first ever) leaving me with only 6 Quarts of the halves, and 4 pints of jelly. Dave absconded with some of the remaining peach halves to make a hopefully tasty fruit/cream cheese dessert pastry.
Since he was a rockstar and cleaned and pitted A WHOLE LUG of peaches for his adoring wife, I was fine with him taking part of the fruit for his own culinary experiments. 6 Quarts is not enough for peach halves though, and I think I might scour our little town for some good peaches to augment this batch. And finally, the best harvest of all, time at the lake with family. :-) Here's us, eating burgers and looking dorky, but happy to be hanging with my parents and brother and sister.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Successes and Mistakes!

As it is every year, this year's garden is a mash up of wild successes and failures I'd rather not talk about. :-D But, since I like pain, lets talk about it.

It's starting to look like I harvested my Yukon Golds a little too early. I've lost over 10% of them in storage to rot. While hot humid weather might be at fault too, my garden support team thinks I might not have been patient enough in my harvesting. So, my Reds are still in the ground and will remain so for at least a week AFTER the vines die back. On the positive side, harvest was really good from the Yukons, and we've really been enjoying them. Size was good, flavor was excellent, I really can't complain, as once again I found them to be an easy crop to grow. I'm excited for my True Potato Seed experiment as well.

Kale and Turnips did great, maybe too great. We are not eating anywhere near enough kale, and I only planted a 3 foot row! Turnips are still overflowing my crisper drawer, and I don't know if we'll get them all eaten. So, perhaps I'll grow less of those two next year.

Related to the Kale, I planted my spring carrots too close to the Kale, and they got shaded out and really aren't doing too great. I'm not sure if I'll harvest anything from that row. Still holding out hope, but it might be a no-go.

Green (purple) beans did great, are still doing great, and the only complaint I have is that I didn't plant enough of them. :-) Might have to dig up more lawn next spring just so I can put in more green beans. I desperately need to get out and gather the seed pods that I've left on the bushes, as they are very done and about to be lost to rot.

My tomatoes are really coming into their glory. The vines are taller than me, literally 6.5" tall, the cages are starting to strain and it's a bit of a race to keep up with the harvest. I have made 3 batches of my roasted tomato sauce this past week. We ate one, and I canned the other 2, giving me 3 pints of summer goodness. As usual I didn't have enough of my stout cages to handle all the vines I planted. As usual, I made do. Every other vine got a stout cage. Those without cages got stakes, and permission to climb their neighbor's cage. One lucky Stupice vine got my old potato cage, that never got used for the vertical potato experiment. While it is admirably holding in the Stupice vine, I realized that the holes in the chicken wire are not big enough for my hands to get through, and not even close to large enough for ripe tomatoes to come through. So, I had to dive in from the top and reach all the way down to the ripe tomatoes. A bit undignified. Perhaps I won't use it for this purpose next year. Eventually I'd like to invest in some hog panels and steel posts to contain everything neatly. That's at least a 100$ investment though, maybe twice that. I imagine I'll just buy a few more sturdy cages and make do for awhile.
The Blossom End Rot has eased. I haven't seen any in the past 2 dozen tomatoes I've harvested.
6 Moonglow
4 Cherokee purple
6 "Amish Paste"
6 Stupice
I think my Amish Paste tomato seedling is a cross with something, the fruits this year are massive, close to twice the size of what I remember them being last year. Still tasty enough, and I don't think I'm going to complain about bigger tomatoes. Interesting though.

Onions were small this year, but everyone in my zone is saying that, so I'm convinced it was nothing I did wrong, just a rough year for onions. Garlic did great again, and the best heads will be replanted this fall.

Peppers were store bought plants, but have put out a half dozen or so bells already, recouping their price 3 times over. (Why are peppers so gosh darned expensive at the grocery store?) Wish I could figure out why I'm incapable of sprouting seedlings. Maybe someday I'll get it right. At least it gives me something to strive for. :-D

Greens and Herbs have done well as usual. I've done 2 full batches of basil in the dryer and lots of dried greens for pot-herbs. My basil is a little funny looking as I routinely grow both green and purple varieties, it appears as though they've crossed a bit and I had green basil with purple stripes on a couple of my basil plants. :-D

The zucchini is doing well enough in the flower bed, sitting peacefully next to some sage and the rhubarb. Only putting out male flowers right now, this seems to be the way of it every year and I don't know why. Hopefully it get's it's act together and puts on some female flowers in time for them to ripen before first frost. We'll just have to wait and see. I'll probably do it this way again next year, it's a convenient enough place for it.

I'll definitely need to increase the garden size next year, as the garlic that was grown in DSM this year will need space and I really would like more beans. Might try to put some winter squash in the south bed.

Anyway, I'm not done yet, I have at least one more month of prime tomatoes and I'm eagerly awaiting the sprouting of my fall crops. :-) Always learning though.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

End of summer rush

We are definitely neck deep in the summer rush here. I know those of you in the sweltering southern climes are past this, but for my Garden Buddies in zones 4 and 5 we're just now getting to the point of overwhelming produce.
I've got tomatoes filling a quarter of my fridge, cucumbers were coming out of my ears and I really needed to figure out my fall crops. All of this in addition to my project list that never seems to end. :-D So, in spite of our little plague bearer being sick last week and passing it to me this weekend and now Dave, stuff actually had to get done.

Birthday money to the rescue!! A big thanks out to Grandma DeeDee and Papa, I took a bit of my birthday money and went to our local hardware store and got a hacksaw and a hatchet. My writing out of the project list really helped focus my hardware trip I think. Definitely an organizing tool I'll use again.

Hacksaw in hand, I quick measured the height of my rain barrel (it was about even with my belt) eyeballed how much height I would get from my flexible elbow end and started sawing the downspout off. This was surprisingly loud, which I can only attribute to the acoustics of the aluminum downspout. Not a big deal, but I almost expected my neighbors to poke their heads out and ask what all that noise was about. :-D Hacksaw did it's job and I was quickly looking at my shortened downspout. I slipped the flexible elbow on the end, and scooted the rainbarrel up to the wall. I did spend a few minutes trying to get the barrel stable and mostly level. I put the the screen on the top of the barrel, made sure the spout/hose connection was solid and called it good! One rain barrel, done. Now I just have to wait for the next rain to see how I did.

Cucumbers needed dealing with this weekend and Dave was kind enough to lend a hand to help his poor ill wife get them done. We got 6 pints of my mother's Bread and Butter pickles canned, and 5 pints of a garlic dill. I'm not real experienced with pickles, my only other experience is the zucchini relish I did last year, that turned out really great, so I have high hopes. :-D

Lastly, I got my fall garden replanted. I think my last planting was washed away by all the rain we had the past couple of weeks. Gardening reality I guess, things fail. So, take two. :-) From South to North, I've planted Carrots, Beets, Spinach, and Lettuce. We'll see if they have time to get enough growth before the sunlight disappears and the cold sets in.

Hopefully I'll get some tomatoes canned this week, or I'll start to lose them. I'm thinking maybe a couple more quarts of whole tomatoes and as many pints as I can get of my roasted veggie tomato sauce.

Friday, August 13, 2010

KinderGARDENS week 18

Inadvertant Farmer asks what I've been doing with my youngster in the garden this week.

The truth is not much. We've been having heat advisories above 100 alternating with vicious thunderstorms that are spawning legions of mosquitoes. None of this is conducive to Baby in the Garden.

We did get out last night briefly right before another storm, which was cooling the temp a little bit. Rowen helped pick 2 bell peppers, 13 more Stupice tomatoes, 1 big Black from Tula and 1 Moonglow, the first of that vine to not have Blossom End Rot. His contribution was a helpful sort of whacking with 'his' spade at anything that looked like it needed a good whack. lol He's also very helpful with watering, he's figured out that Mommy likes to get water from the wading pool to water the pots with, and he dutifully dips 'his' watering can into the pool and sometimes even gets that water on a plant. :-D

We have of course been doing lots of canning, and he is very serious about his duties as collector and keeper of the rings. :-) (canning rings that is) He helped his Daddy and I set up some shelving in the basement to keep all our canned goodies in the cool dark. He was especially intrigued by the dead bugs of course, but c'est la vie. All of the filled jars are now out of the hot sunny kitchen and down where they belong. Just in time to make room for the pickles that have to be made this weekend. :-D

I can tell when he's missing the outdoors, but sometimes that's better than a baby covered in mosquito bites and heat rash. Hopefully things will cool a bit this weekend and we can all get outdoors some. I have a rain barrel that he can help install. :-D

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Newt, and Why I Heart Judge Walker

Newt G has put forward his view on the Judge Walker decision in CA about gay marriage.
Calling Judge Walker's decision:
"an outrageous disrespect for our Constitution and for the majority of people of the United States who believe marriage is the union of husband and wife. ...marriage is the union of one man and one woman. ... judges who oppose the American people are a growing threat to our society.”
One man and one woman, surely he jests, he's been married 3 times. Maybe he meant one woman at a time? Oh, wait, he cheated on his first two wives, so that can't be what he meant either... Hypocrites like this, trying to discriminate against Americans because of their sexual orientation make me sick. "ooooh the sanctity of marriage!!!" Give me a break, which of his 3 marriages and numerous liaisons was the sacred one? The man is slimy and gives a bad name to real newts.

Constitutional disrespect? Has he even read the 14th Amendment? Passed, per the law of the land with ratification by 3/4ths of the states back in 1868 when debates about a person's rights included the same arguments except the bigots were trying to deny personhood based on skin color. Its Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to ALL people.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Marriage is, at it's core, all about protection. Protection of wealth, protection of children and protection against the ravages of age/illness/hard times. A marriage, in spite of the modern religious trappings is a contract between adults. The 14th Amendment says States cannot deprive a citizen of that right, no matter how a particular faith views the arrangement that person wants to enter into. And to borrow a line from one of my 1 year old's books, a person's a person, no matter how small. (or gay)

Some points from Judge Walker's ruling that I particularly like:

9. Marriage in the United States has always been a civil matter.
Civil authorities may permit religious leaders to solemnize
marriages but not to determine who may enter or leave a civil
marriage. Religious leaders may determine independently
whether to recognize a civil marriage or divorce but that
recognition or lack thereof has no effect on the relationship
under state law.
Recap: You know that line that preachers use at the end of the ceremony, "by the power vested in me by the state of Blah, I now pronounce you.." Their power to solemnize a contract signing between two adults is granted to them by the State, not the other way around. And, because we're such a great country, we don't even require that they do ceremonies they don't agree with, they can respectfully decline to marry a couple, but that couple CAN STILL MARRY, because the power to recognize that marriage, thankfully, does not rest with one faith or church.

21. California, like every other state, has never required that
individuals entering a marriage be willing or able to
Self explanatory, but I hate the, "oooh they can't have kids, so they shouldn't be allowed to marry" trash. Nice to see a judge slap that one on it's butt. It's offensive to anyone who's ever tried and failed to have children, it's offensive to the thousands of gays/lesbians happily raising children and, quite frankly, it's offensive to me and I'm a happily married hetero with a kid.

33. Eliminating gender and race restrictions in marriage has not
deprived the institution of marriage of its vitality.
Used to be a woman was property and not legally allowed to leave a marriage or hold her own wealth as both her and her property were owned by her husband. That particular notion thankfully no longer resides in the law books, and yet marriage survived the blow. At one point 41 states had laws restricting the marriage between different colored people. Again, that quaint bit of nonsense was overturned and yet marriage survived. There's absolutely no reason that allowing gays and lesbians to marry will in any way harm the institution of marriage.

36. States and the federal government channel benefits, rights and
responsibilities through marital status. Marital status
affects immigration and citizenship, tax policy, property and
inheritance rules and social benefit programs.
"Why don't they just get civil unions?" What on earth are people thinking when they ask that? Did the thought of a civil union go through their head when their lover got down on a knee and asked to spend the rest of their lives with them? No. Civil Unions are not the same as marriage, and that separate but equal bullsh*t doesn't fly anymore. It's never equal. Civil Unions do not grant the same benefits, nor do they adequately express the love and commitment that same sex couples wish to express.

58. Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against
gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have
intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays
and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and
lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of
f. Tr 972:14-17 (Meyer: “Laws are perhaps the strongest of social structures that uphold and enforce stigma.”);
g. Tr 2053:8-18 (Herek: Structural stigma provides the context and identifies which members of society are devalued. It also gives a level of permission to denigrate or attack particular groups, or those who are perceived to be members of certain groups in society.);
h. Tr 2054:7-11 (Herek: Proposition 8 is an instance of structural stigma.).

59. Proposition 8 requires California to treat same-sex couples
differently from opposite-sex couples.
There it is, in not so plain English. Prop 8 REQUIRES the state to treat a set of citizens differently than the majority and is thus not only morally repugnant but illegal. It places a government stamp of approval on inequality and that is NOT what this nation was founded on. Say what you will about the rights of states and the rights of citizens to vote, but they do NOT get to vote for discriminatory treatment of other citizens and every state in the union has agreed to that.

Read the rest of his ruling, it's great. He rips apart Prop 8 piece by piece, touching on the stereotypes against gays/lesbians and enumerating the studies that find those stereotypes to be wrong, stereotypes like children raised by gay parents are less well adjusted, or that gays and lesbians recruit children to be gay. He points out the entrenched religious views on the "sinfulness" of homosexuality and how intrinsic those religious views were throughout the Prop 8 proponents. He highlights the campaign propaganda that swings between misleading and outright falsehoods, playing on people fears with phrases like,"Save our children" and "falling to Satan."

I'm sure we'll see more about this issue. It will probably be argued all the way to the Supreme Court. I firmly believe that this issue is my generation's civil rights battle. If you're one of the 52% that voted for Prop 8, or might have voted for it were you living in CA, I'm asking you to look at that view rationally. Get beyond the hatred propaganda, have a conversation with a gay couple about how the discrimination affects their lives, compare some of what's being said and done with some of the things said and done during the desegregation era or women's suffrage. This is not a nuanced issue with more than one right answer, as so many issues in politics are. This is an issue about equal rights, rights guaranteed to EVERY American.

Happily I'll be back to the regularly scheduled garden goodness for my next post. Expect to hear more about my tomato vines. :-D

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My To Do List

Things done over the weekend:
3 quarts whole tomatoes canned with water
Batch of Basil dried.
Onions were 'cleaned' and put away in the not-so-great place in the pantry.
Potatoes were cured outside for a couple of days and now are in on the kitchen cabinet. They need some of the dirt brushed off and they need to be put in the potato bin in the pantry.
First flush of Stupice tomatoes harvested, along with a pile of cherry tomatoes. Total: 12 Stupice and dozen or so cherries, 1 mortgage lifter. Stupice doesn't seem to be having the blossom end rot problem like the larger tomatoes are.

The rest of this post is me organizing my thoughts on projects I'd like to get done next. You won't hurt my feelings if you don't read it all

GOAL: Cool storage, away from sunlight, for my canning jars full of food
Short term solution: Clean off a ledge down in the basement and put filled canning jars there. Ledge is roughly 12-16" deep and fairly level. It will cost me nothing, and will extend the shelf life of that food. The downside is it has no guard rail and jars could possibly fall and break.
Supplies needed: Bucket and soapy water

Long term solution: Wood shelving with a low guard rail. 3' x 2' x 4'. Cheap and easy to build with a few 2x4's and a couple of plywood planks, some 1x2's for the low guard rail. Hopefully less chance of jars tipping and breaking. I'll need wood that can handle the cool damp of the cellar.
Supplies needed: 16'(legs) + 30'(shelf bracing) = 46' of 2x4's; 3 plywood sheets, at least 3/4" and 2'x3'; 9 feet of 1x2's. Big wood screws, which I might already have.

Extra Credit: Air flow vent for external cold air intake to cool room with shelving, maybe making use of dryer vent that's in place and unused.

GOAL: Cold storage of veggies, like onions/turnips/carrots/garlic/apples/potatoes
Solution: build some crates and put them on the ledges/floor in the basement room with the canning jars. I *have* to have some crates, I refuse to just pile the produce on the ledge, we'll lose too much to rot and bugs. Bags won't allow for proper air flow. Possibly acceptable would be something like a feed bag hanging from the rafters.
Supplies needed: 2x4's and 1x2's, small wood screws.

GOAL: cold frames made with the old windows from my parents
Solution, wood frames the size of the window and 12" or so high. A bar to prop open the windows would be good. I have hinges and handles from the ReStore already.
Supplies needed: 2x4's and 1x2's. Wood screws that I may already have.

All of the above projects will require me to cut wood. Not a lot, but more than I *really* want to do by hand with a handsaw. How exactly I'll get the wood to my house and cut I need to figure out before these projects can progress. Perhaps I can visit my Dad for a weekend and go with plans in hand and get all the wood cut at his place, then once cut I bet it would fit in my car alright. Perhaps one of my neighbors has some wood working tools.

GOAL: Rain barrel in place and downspout adjusted accordingly.
Short term solution: Rainbarrel sitting on the ground, with flexible gutter pointing into top.
Supplies needed: Something to cleanly cut downspout so it can be put back together when we move out. Maybe a hacksaw.

Long term solution: Rainbarrel perched up on a couple of cinder blocks, with something set up to capture the first flush (A gallon or two) of water (most polluted) before remaining rain goes to barrel
Supplies needed: 2 Cinder blocks, some pvc piping to rig up first flush diverter

Extra Credit: Goldfish! :-) Also, figuring out where capped top of the old cistern is might be potentially beneficial, I'd hate to put the rain barrel on top of it by accident.

GOAL: organize and pile neatly the fire wood I've collected.
Short Term solution: A hatchet to break it all down into manageable pieces, stacked along-side the shed, possibly with our tarp on top. (It's got a hole in anyway, we might as well put it to permanent use and buy a new one for hole-less tarp duties.)
Supplies needed: small hatchet. (tarp to replace old one with hole)
Long term solution, a way to handle larger wood pieces, aka trunks/large limbs and get some serious fire wood.
Supplies needed: axe.

Projects that would be useful to do, but I'm lacking materials and they're not vital.
-Rocket Stove: Need bricks, mortar and a grill rack from some old grill.
-Cold Room: Probably an adaptation of the small mudroom, I'll need shelving and vents to control outside air flow. Might happen closer to winter when it will actually see some use. Hubby has concerns about bugs and temp control and loosing food to rot; I want this to replace our fridge during the winter months.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Well, about a third of my potato plants had died back so I went ahead yesterday and harvested those plants. Should be most of my Yukon Gold harvest. The reds will take another week or so to finish up.
They did awesome! I had 34 potatoes, a few were golf ball size but most were (my) fist size to croquet ball size. I'm really happy with the first harvest. I'll be ecstatic if the rest of the harvest is as good, 80+ potatoes will be a most welcome infusion to our pantry.
I made a point to gather the True Potato Seed (TPS) while I was messing with the plants. I'll be doing some serious gardening experimentation with those. A 2-5 year experiment if I understand the material correctly.

Here's the basics of my plan--
February 2011: Start TPS under lights, discard those seedlings that are sickly. Plant out and grow to spud size in a nursery bed. Overwinter indoors?
April 2012, plant surviving spuds into garden proper and grow to harvest tubers and more TPS.
Feb 2013: Start second generation of TPS indoors under lights indoors, again discard sickly specimens. Plant out and grow to spud size. Overwinter indoors?
April 2014 plant spuds into garden proper and grow to harvest tubers and more TPS.

TPS harvested in August 2014 will be second generation to my area and hopefully if I have enough seed I can start treating the crop like onions and start seedlings every year, to have tubers every year to plant out for harvest. (Every year have both seedlings and spuds to plant out, the seedlings to grow into spuds for next year, and the spuds from the seedlings planted out the year before)

At this point I may have lost some of you. Don't worry, it's not easy to wrap your brain around. I'm not entirely sure I've got it all right yet and I will probably spend some time this winter doing more reading on the subject.

You may be wondering what my purpose in all this hassle is. I have had good luck with buying certified spuds from seed companies, why bother trying to save seed and breed my own varieties? Well, the way things currently work, most gardeners are just planting out clones, no genetic improvements are happening with the varieties. Sure, a few big seed companies are probably involved in some potato breeding and trials, but you know me, I never like to leave something as important as my food in the hands of people I don't know and can't oversee. :-D

So, I'm going to try some amateur breeding of my own. I can't make things worse, and who knows, maybe I'll create the next best potato. :-) At the very least I'll learn more about potatoes and that's not a bad thing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Busy week

Bear with me here, just trying to keep tabs on things for my own records. :-)

Pints of corn: 21
Pints of whole plums: 4
Pints of plum preserves: 4
Pints of spiced plums: ~4 (not done yet)
Quarts of green beans: ~4 (one was not very full)
Produce from the garden:
1/2 pound of green beans
3 potatoes
~12 cherry tomatoes (the volunteer plants that I transplanted into the garden)
2 roma-type tomatoes, couldn't find the plant marker, I'll need to check my notes.
Swiss Chard~24 onions (not very big this year sadly)

The garden is doing great! I have tomato plants taller than I am! The cherry tomatoes and one of the little roma types are ripening. I had a couple of Moonglow tomatoes ripen last week, but both had what looked like blossom end rot. This bothers me, because I planted every tomato plant with a couple of crushed eggshells and a couple ounces of worm castings. I'm doing a bit of research and watching that plant closely. I think I'm going to try and epsom salt application to correct the situation.
The garlic and onions are about done with their curing on the front porch. I've eaten a couple of the garlic bulbs and they are pretty tasty. My plan this week is to sort them and clean them (brush off dirt and cut off roots/leaves, cull damaged bulbs) and separate the eating garlic from the seed garlic for next year. Onions need the same thing, sorting and storing. I hope to get storage for them worked out in the basement. Right now the only place I have for them is in the potato bin in the pantry, and that's not ideal. I'd like that potato bin to be totally potatoes/sweet potatoes and maybe squashes over the fall/winter. I'd like garlic and onions to have a safe cool place down in the basement, maybe with some apples and a good % of my canned goods. That means I need some crates of some kind, and ideally some shelves too.
Herbs are going gangbusters. I've been nibbling on the basil, tossing it into pasta dishes, and it's about time to do a big harvest and dehydrate. Hopefully that can get done this week. Probably could do mint and thyme too.

For those of you interested in such things, here are the details for the plums that I processed this weekend. They were "wild" plums, meaning it's not a variety grown for market, it's just a tree in someone's front yard that puts out small tart fruits. Our neighbors know the old lady that lives there and they were rounding up anyone who wanted plums to go pick this weekend because the lady couldn't keep up with the harvest. So Rowen and I grabbed a bucket and went to collect some of the bounty. Rowen wasn't much help, but he did seem to enjoy the outing. :-) I picked around 3 or 4 gallons of the little plums. The next day I washed them and pitted roughly half of them, focusing on bruised/marred/split fruits. The unbruised nice looking fruits went into a separate bowl for the spice plum and whole plum recipes. 4 or 5 cups of the pitted fruit went into my dehydrator for homemade prunes. :-) Mmmm prunes. They turned out pretty good I think, the skins are a little tough, but the meat is tart and tasty and will be awesome this winter. The rest of the pitted fruit was combined with sugar and a cup of water and boiled for 15-20 minutes with the hopes of it setting up a bit into a nice jam/preserves. Sadly, as with all my tries this year, it didn't set up AT ALL! It is tasty though. :-) The whole plums were divided into 2 portions. They all were pricked, to prevent bursting, and one half went into a crock and was covered with a vinegar/sugar/spice mix to make some spiced plums. This is my first time making such a thing, I don't know if I've ever eaten spiced plums either. It will take 3 days to finish the process, which is unique. Every 24 hours I have to drain off the vinegar/sugar/spice mix, reheat it and recover the plums with it. After the 3rd day I drain off the syrup one last time, pack the plums into jars, cover with the hot syrup and then can like normal. Needless to say, I've very excited to see how they turn out and I will post an update after the results are in. :-)

I didn't plant enough green beans to can this year, so I bought 2 pounds from the farmers market on Saturday. I was chatting with the lady I bought them from and she said she planted tons of green beans this year because everybody raved about them last year, but now she can't sell enough of them and she's losing money. The 2 pounds I bought from her looked beautiful after canning, so I will probably do some more from her next weekend. I know one person can't make up for all the lost sales, but hopefully my support will offset a bit of it. We have a small stash of store bought cans of green beans, but I'd like to have a dozen or more quarts of my homemade ones before the end of the bean season.

The potato plants are about done! This is only my second year growing potatoes, but I'm once again ecstatic at how they are doing. I imagine I'll harvest them this week as the last of the bushes die back. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to try to save tubers to plant next spring or whether I'll plan to buy more seed tubers. I'll decide after I see the harvest I think.
The last of my news from my super busy week is the acquisition of a rain barrel! Woot! Three cheers for Craigslist! I scored a never-been-used barrel with all the parts and manual for 40$. I had to drive a ways to pick it up from the middle-of-nowhere, and drive back with it sitting in the passenger seat of my little Honda Civic, (it wouldn't fit in my trunk) but it was totally worth it! The picture above is the actual model I acquired, isn't it handsome? :-) I can't wait to get it hooked up and full of water. I want to find a good breed of goldfish to eat the mosquitoes, unless I can find some other non-chemical way to insure no mosquitoes are breeding in it. (yea, I have the screen, but it wouldn't take a very big hole to let mosquitoes in.)